AND TECHNOLOGICAL RESPONSIBILITY
often begins with a near-term, and often shortsighted response to a
human need or want, and while it addresses the immediate need, often
causes long-term consequences that are deleterious. This is most evident
in the state of the environment, and in the rise of chronic diseases
such as cancer, and reproductive and immune dysfunction. In a book on
ethics of technology, philosopher Hans Jonas states:
technology, informed by an ever deeper penetration of nature and
propelled by the forces of market and politics, has enhanced human
power beyond anything known or even dreamed of before. It is a power
over matter, over life on earth, and over man himself; and it keeps
growing at an accelerating pace. Its unfettered exercise for about
two centuries has raised the material estate of its wielders and
main beneficiaries, the industrial 'West,' to heights equally unknown
in the history of mankind....But lately, the other side of the triumphal
advance has begun to show its face, disturbing the euphoria of success
with threats that are as novel as its welcomed fruits...the peaceful
and constructive use of worldwide technological power, a use in
which all of us are collaborators as captive beneficiaries through
rising production, consumption and sheer population growth - that
poses threats much harder to counter. The net total of these threats
is the overtaxing of nature, environmental and (perhaps) human as
well. Thresholds may be reached in one direction or another, points
of no return, where processes initiated by us will run away from
us on their own momentum - and toward disaster." (page ix)
Table X shows examples of past problems, technological "solutions,"
and the long term consequences from continued practice of that technology.
Food preservation, temperature control: nontoxic, nonflammable
of crops, illness due to "pests": agent to kill
effects on birds and mammals
for consumer and industry use: cheap and readily available
global climate change
food supply: agent to aid crop growth
and phosphorus fertilizers
X: Examples of human needs and wants, responsive technology,
and long-term impacts (modified from: Graedel, T. and B.R. Allenby,
Industrial Ecology, Prentice-Hall, 1995. Page 9)
understand the complex human need/want - industry - impact systems and
cycles, we need to predict and avoid the consequences by wiser design
and use of technology. The most eloquent voice that spoke about the
effects of pesticides, one that was heard around the worlds, and mobilized
the environmental conscience of the United States was that of Rachel
Carson, a young biologist and a Pittsburgh native. In 1962, based on
her observation as a marine biologist for the Fish and Wildlife Service,
Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, a book that became a classic
and started the environmental movement. When excerpts of the book first
appeared as articles in the New Yorker, major chemical campanies tried
to suppress Rachel Carson's voice as mere hysteria. Rachel Carson dedicated
Silent Spring "To Albert Schweitzer who said: "Man
has lost the capacity to foresee and forestall. He will end by destroying
develops his ethics of technological responsibility along five tenets
(pp. ix, x):
altered, always enlarged nature of human action, with the magnitude
and novelty of its works and their impact on man's global future,"
raises new moral issues. A new reflection on ethical principles is
lengthened reach of our deeds moves responsibility into the center
of the ethical stage...responsibility is a correlate of power."
Therefore our responsibility must be proportional to the scope of
the power of technology. This means that "we need lengthened
foresight, that is, a scientific futurology."
Even the best predictions will fall short. Consequently, we must apply
a "heuristic of fear, replacing former predictions of hope"
which must "tell us what is possibly at stake and what we must
we must avoid at all costs is determined by what we must avoid at
all costs." As religion that gave us the foundations for this
thought is "in eclipse" today, a philosophy of nature is
to serve as a guide to our "environmental morality."
This thinking has to lead us to steps to limit technology to "ensure
the survival and humanity of man."
tenets are useful as yardsticks for thinking about and evaluating technologies,
especially before their widespread use.